After London’s invitation of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) sparked many criticisms from the part of human rights activists, Saudi Arabia is sending another official to the Queen’s funeral.
This Saturday, England sent a letter of invitation to Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad Bin Salman to ask him to take part in the funeral ceremony of Queen Elizabeth II. This was enough for human rights activists to send in return a wave of harsh criticisms towards London, saying Bin Salman’s invitation would mean closing eyes on his human rights record.
A London-based pressure group, Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), rebuked the move and said that the occasion would give Saudi’s Crown Prince another chance to “whitewash” his human rights records.
Prince Mohammed was accused of ordering a murder, and Hatice Cengiz, Mr. Khashoggi’s fiancée, said this Sunday, adding that the UK’s invitation is a stain on the memory of the Queen and that the Saudi prince should be denied the opportunity to seek legitimacy and normalization by attending her funeral. She also called for Bin Salman to be arrested when he lands in London, though she doubted this would happen.
Ever since MBS became crown prince of Saudi Arabia in 2017, scant political freedoms have disappeared with stiff prison sentences handed down to critics of government, even just for social media posts.
The visit to the UK by the prince would be his first visit ever since the murder. He previously visited Greece and France in July which marked his first visit to Europe since Khashoggi’s death. Bin Salman has denied any role in the killing, yet in 2020, Saudi Arabia jailed eight people for between seven and 20 years for Khashoggi’s murder.
As a result of the mass criticisms, Saudi Arabia would be represented instead by Prince Turki bin Mohammed al Saud. Prince Turki is a minister of state and has been a member of the cabinet since 2018. He is the grandson of late King Fahd and part of the new generation that has been brought to power by Prince Mohammed. Last week on Thursday, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Britain’s King Charles spoke on the phone, Saudi Press Agency reported.
King Salman expressed his sincere condolences to King Charles, the British royal family, and the British public on the death of Queen Elizabeth II. King Charles expressed his thanks and deep gratitude to King Salman for his noble sentiments, stressing his keenness and interest in strengthening relations between their countries.
Other Gulf leaders with human rights violations in the invitation list
In addition to Mohammed bin Salman, Sheikh Tamim, Emir of Qatar, Mohammed bin Zayed, President of the UAE, and Salman bin Hamad, King of Bahrain, are among the guests of the Queen’s funeral, all of whom are widely accused of violating human rights.
but the case of Saudi Arabia is more concerning. Recently, one of the Saudi students of Leeds University in England, Salma al-Sheha, who had traveled to his country to visit her family, was sentenced to 34 years in prison only for Twitter activities. This was in fact the longest sentence ever imposed on a Saudi woman for her peaceful online expressions on social media.
Similarly, and only a few weeks after the unfair sentence for Salma al-Shehab, a court in Saudi Arabia again shocked human rights activists by sentencing another Saudi female to 45 years in prison over social media use.
According to last week’s report by rights group Dawn, a terrorism court convicted Nourah bint Saeed al-Qahtani of “using the internet to tear the social fabric” and “violating public order by using social media”.
In addition, it was in March this year that 81 people were executed on political charges in Saudi Arabia in one day, the majority of whom were Shiites who opposed Muhammad Bin Salman.